As difficult as moving is for us, it can take an even greater toll on our kids. They are forced to leave behind their school, their closest friends, their bedroom, and all of their favorite parks, hangouts and play areas. Losing everything that is familiar to them and being thrust into an unfamiliar city can leave them feeling depressed, confused and alone. If your child is having a difficult time to adjusting to your move--or even to the idea of moving--read on for some tips on how to ease him or her through the process with love and support.
Your younger kids are more likely to adjust to their new lives than older children or teenagers. While they may miss playing in their old backyard with the other neighborhood children, your little ones will have a much easier time making new friends and exploring your new home. Starting at a new school can be a little bit scary, especially for more shy and introverted youngsters. To help your child assimilate to life at a new school, you can get involved in the PTA or other classroom activities. Your presence will help ease your child's anxiety and help him or her feel secure. It will also enable you to meet other parents and set up play-dates with children of similar age to help jump-start the friend-making process.
Older children and teenagers
Once your children reach adolescence, they enter a very confusing time in their life. They are striving to discover their identity, and as a result the desire to rebel against your authority becomes strong. Being told they will have to move may make them feel resentful towards you and the idea of relocating. Leaving behind the friends they have made, the social circle they strived to create, and the school where they have spent so much effort to fit in can be a staggering and devastating thought. You can help your teen or preteen cope with the move by involving him or her in the process (such as asking for decorating opinions), planning a return trip in the near future to visit old friends or inviting his or her pals to come visit you, and by being patient and understanding of their grief. At this age, your kids are experiencing an overload of hormones and emotions, and irrational overreactions are not uncommon. Let them know you empathize with the way they are feeling and that you are there to support them.
Signs of depression
If you believe your child is exhibiting signs of severe depression and/or thoughts of suicide, it's important to seek professional help immediately.
- Difficulty concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Fatigue and decreased energy
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness
- Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism
- Insomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping
- Irritability, restlessness
- Loss of interest in activities or hobbies
- Overeating or appetite loss
- Persistent aches and pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems
- Persistent sadness, anxiety, or feelings of emptiness
- Thoughts of suicide, suicide attempts
Tips for coping
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- Talk about it. Your child may be bottling her emotions inside. Initiate a dialogue about the move and ask your child how he or she is dealing with the adjustment. Be supportive and validate her feelings by explaining a time when you felt similarly. Even if you don't have a clear-cut solution to your child's concerns and distress, simply allowing her to vocalize them will lighten the burden.
- Be positive. If your child is feeling depressed, try not to add to the stress with your own negativity. Keep a positive attitude and refrain from discussing any undesirable issues regarding the move -- it will only fuel your child's anger or anxiety. Remember to keep emphasizing the benefits of your move, all the great things about your new city, and all the qualities of his new school. If your child has a bigger room in your new home, remind him of how much better it is than his old room. If your new home has a pool, talk about much fun you will have swimming in the summer. If his school has a great sports program and your child is an aspiring athlete, talk about all the teams he can join. The more you remind your child that he is not only losing his old life but gaining a new and exciting one, the more optimistic he will be about the changes.
- Expect regression. No matter how sweet your little angel can be, even the most well-behaved children can exhibit poor behavior due to increased stress levels. Young children may throw temper tantrums, have accidents, or crawl into your bed at night. Your teen may become withdrawn and reclusive, rebel, become disrespectful, or break rules. While you should remain authoritative and let your child know you will not tolerate indignant behavior, do your best to be understanding of the way your child is feeling.